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Family Reunification Act is helping illegal immigrants gain a green card to stay with their family members in the United States. On January 2, 2013, the Obama administration ruled that thousands of foreign spouses and children who are in the country illegally can stay with their U.S. citizen family members while applying for green cards. The Family Reunification Act is an effort that hopes to reduce the amount of time that families are separated from one another because of deportation. The administration announced the proposal last year but sought comments for several months before making it a rule to be published in the Federal Register. The policy will officially take effect on March 4.

Many Chicago-area immigration advocates are welcoming this step forward in the overhaul of immigration reform, and there are several thousand people in the Chicago area who are expected to benefit from this. This rule gives an illegal immigrant the ability to sign up for a “provisional unlawful presence waiver” if he or she has overstayed a U.S. visa or entered the country illegally.

In light of this announcement, the National Immigrant Justice Center attorneys are getting ready for an influx of cases come March. When applicants apply for the waiver, they will be required to return to their native country for an interview at the U.S. Consulate after the waiver is approved. However, this process can take as long as a year, forcing individuals to be separated from their families for a short period.

“If you have this waiver approved and then go down and have your visa interview, unless something else arises at that visa interview, there is a pretty high likelihood that your case will go through pretty smoothly at that point,” Lisa Koop, a managing attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Chicago Tribune.